The Australian Shepherd dog is known to be a robust and healthy dog that can boast a long lifespan reaching anything up to 15 years old if well cared for. They are often called Blue Heelers because of their striking coloured coats. The breed is known to be very inquisitive and extremely intelligent with a low boredom threshold which means they need to be kept busy and occupied, but they are wonderful loyal characters that are a pleasure to be around.
Like many other pedigree dogs, the Australian Shepherd does suffer from a few hereditary disorders as well as a few acquired ones too which are listed below. Many dogs never develop any of these conditions, but they are worth knowing about because the earlier a disorder is diagnosed, the better the outcome for the dog.
This is a condition that affects a dog's hips and which is caused by an abnormal development in their joints. The disorder typically affects larger dog breeds but can affect other breeds too including the Australian Shepherd. It's a very painful disorder that causes dogs to be constantly lame and which needs to be treated as soon as a sign there may a problem is detected to alleviate the dog's discomfort. In very severe cases, vets might well recommend surgery which is an expensive procedure but one that's very worthwhile.
The Australian Shepherd is also predisposed to suffering from congenital deafness which is why breeders should never use any lines known to suffer from the condition in their breeding programmes. Dogs with the condition live perfectly normal lives but owners need to be aware of their pet's deafness so they can make sure any commands given can be seen by them. The reason they are so prone to congenital deafness is due to their merle gene which is also responsible for their colouring.
Sadly, the breed is also prone to suffering from epilepsy which can be quite frightening when a dog first has a fit. However, the condition can be very successfully controlled by giving dogs suffering from epilepsy the right type of medication on a regular basis. Because it is incurable, dogs diagnosed with the condition would need to be kept on medication for the rest of their lives much as people suffering with epilepsy have to.
The breed is also know to suffer from several eye disorders which are listed below:
Progressive Retinal Atrophy – PRA, is an eye disease where gradual loss of vision occurs and as such any dog diagnosed with the condition would need to undergo an annual eye test. This allows vets to monitor how the condition is progressing which in turn means they can recommend future therapies and treatments, although currently there is no cure for this progressive disorder.
This is a ophthalmic disorder that's often seen in quite a few breeds including the Airedale and which leads to loss of vision but it is treatable although prognosis does depend on each individual dog and the severity of their condition.
Another congenital abnormality seen in the Australian Shepherd as well as other breeds, this is an ocular disorder where the surrounding tissue of the eyeball is missing when puppy are first born. Occasionally, the missing part may develop during the first 6 to 8 weeks.
This is an inherited abnormality and one which can lead to total blindness. There are various levels of severity which can vary from dog to dog. However, there is not known treatment although it is not a progressive disorder which means their eyesight does not get any worse as time goes by because of the condition.
This is another genetic ocular abnormality which affect eyelids, the iris, lens, retina and optic nerve and where normal development does not occur.
The Australian Shepherd is also prone to suffer from cataracts which can lead to blindness but this it more typically seen in older dogs. It is very important that cataracts be monitored once they have been detected so owners are aware of the progress of a dog's vision.
The breed is also known to be sensitive to certain drugs and medication which is known as Multiple Drug Sensitivity (MDS) and this includes things like ivermectin which owners and vets need to be aware of.
Although it may seem like Australian Shepherds suffer from lots of hereditary and acquired disorders, not all dogs will develop any of them during the course of their life time. However, knowing a dog is more susceptible to developing a condition means owners can pick up on any symptoms sooner rather than later. As with humans, the earlier a condition is detected and treated, the better the outcome tends to be for the dog.